The number of new cases of Covid-19 hovers at around 40,000 per day with between 200-300 deaths, as we move into winter where traditionally the figures for hospital admissions and fatalities rise, partly due to flu as well as other respiratory illnesses, particularly among the most vulnerable groups.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority’s (MHRA) recent decision makes England and Wales the first countries to approve molnupiravir (tradename Lagevrio) the only oral antiviral treatment currently available.

Previously treatment for active Covid has been in the form of expensive monoclonal antibodies which are given intravenously and require specialist supervision in a hospital setting.

Molnupiravir, initially designed to treat flu, becomes the first oral medication to redress this. It is an oral tablet which has shown to halve hospital admissions.

Among those given the treatment just over seven per cent were hospitalised versus 14 per cent in those receiving a placebo. Within 29 days, there were no deaths whatsoever in those given the active drug against 8 for patients prescribed pills.

Molnupiravir interferes with an enzyme required for coronavirus to replicate, hence it reduces the ability of the virus to multiply and overcome the body’s immune system.

The UK has agreed to 480,000 courses of the drug which should be available within the month. At current trends, demand will far outstrip supply, hence the drug will be initially limited to those most vulnerable.

At the same time, Oxford scientists have identified a gene, LZTFL-1, which may go some way to explaining the far higher rate of illness and deaths among south Asians afflicted by Covid.

The high-risk version of this gene is present in almost two thirds of those of south Asian heritage versus only 15 percent of those of European ancestry.

The pandemic has changed the way we think and act in many ways, however it is vital to remember that despite advances we are sadly far from an end to it.

The rules of social distancing, rigorous hand hygiene, always considering Covid-19 wherever you are and getting a test if you have any potential symptoms still apply, and hopefully will contribute toward a stabilisation and potentially reduction in cases as we come to a time of year when healthcare resources are under increasing strain anyway.